When Dan Marino entered the NFL in 1983 as a member of the Miami Dolphins, it wasn't a forgone conclusion that it would be the beginning of dominance for one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Selected 27th overall in the first round out of Pittsburgh University, Marino's draft position was downgraded due to rumors of drug use, which remained unproven. Ultimately, famed Dolphins head coach Don Shula took the slight risk, and made him the face of the franchise.
Marino posted a stellar Hall of Fame career from 1983 until his retirement in 1999, which included 5,000 yard passing seasons, Super Bowl appearances (though no victories), and a plethora of Pro Bowls to his name. What's interesting though, is that in contrast to other QBs of his elite caliber, he never really had too much in the way of great wide receivers to work with. While he did have an extended stretch of seasons that included the services of the talented Mark Clayton, and several with Irving Fryar, it always seemed like Marino had to deal with many more liabilities than assets at the position.
Looking back through the Marino-era Dolphins rosters, that statement isn't an exaggeration. Many of his pass catchers were rookies, or stopgaps would last only a couple of seasons. While it is difficult to maintain a long career in the NFL, one would think that a player as talented as Marino would have warranted a more consistent corps of receivers for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, he instead had to throw to the people on this list. Ranked below are the 15 worst receivers Dan Marino ever had to work with.
15. Lamar Thomas
Spending three seasons with the Dolphins from 1995 to 1998, Thomas wasn't really awful, just decidedly "average". While his 1998 campaign may have yielded five TD receptions and 600 yards receiving, his other two seasons, were less than exceptional. He had less than 30 receptions in each of them, and never totaled more than two TD receptions. He was technically on the team, likely on the practice squad, for the 1999 and 2000 seasons, but did not appear in any regular season games. Fair to say that Marino was likely indifferent to this target.
13 Randal Hill
Hill was another middle of the road receiver, playing for Miami in two seasons near the end of Marino's career, in 1995 and 1996 respectively. He wasn't bad, but certainly didn't turn in any jaw-dropping performances either. He totaled over 600 yards in those two seasons, but did catch four TD passes. Still, I'm willing to bet he wasn't on Marino's short list of receivers he would prefer to throw to. Not as bad as some on this list, but definitely not good enough to be removed from it.
12 James Pruitt
Pruitt spent two stints with the Dolphins; one from 1986 to 1988, and the other from 1990 to 1991. He wasn't a complete disaster, as he caught touchdown passes in two different seasons, but to say he was "mediocre" would be an understatement. He actually started no games in the five different seasons he played on the team. Clearly there just to provide some variance for Marino.
Overall, his lows were pretty abysmal. He had two seasons where he totaled less than 40 yards receiving, and predictably caught no TD passes in either of them. The fact that he isn't even in the top ten of this list, is a testament to the poor quality that Marino had to work with.
11 George Farmer
Farmer played just one season for Miami in 1987, and only spent a total of four in the league, finishing his career with the L.A. Rams. In that '87 season he caught just one pass for a grand total of five yards. Granted, that sample size may be literally next to nothing at all, but the fact that he wasn't kept around after one reception is at least a little bit telling. Had he gotten more opportunities, he certainly could have been ranked higher here.
10 Brett Perriman
In all fairness to Perriman, he did have a solid career in the mid-1990s with the Lions, but by the time he got to Miami for his last season in 1997, he wasn't the same player. He caught just 19 passes for 309 yards and had one TD reception. Hardly awe-inspiring numbers, but again, Perriman was at the end of the line for his career.
Had he arrived several years earlier, he and Marino could have been a pretty dynamic connection. As is stands, Perriman was just another of his lackluster targets he accumulated throughout the years.
9 Andre Brown
Brown had a solid first season in 1989. The Miami U product caught five TD passes and totaled 400 yards. Things seemed to be looking up until the next year when he completely fell off the map. Despite appearing in 16 games, he caught just three passes all season. It's anyone's guess as to what happened. Regardless, he historically gets thrown into the production line of Dolphins receivers around this time. Unlikely he would have been anything more than a middling target.
8 Duriel Harris
Harris actually predates Marino arriving to the team in 1983, since he began his career seven years prior. He was actually very solid in the late 1970s, but by the time the new franchise QB had gotten there, his production was dwindling heavily. In total, he spent two seasons with Marino in 1983 and 1984.
Between those his best season came in which he caught 15 passes for 260 yards and a lone TD pass. Had Marino been in the league five years earlier, this could have been a target he may have relied upon. Instead, his productivity had since passed by the time the pair had a chance to make that happen.
7 Robert Clark
Another receiver whose best years were behind him, Clark was a productive target for the Lions for several years in the early 1990s, totaling over 900 yards two seasons before he joined the Dolphins. He clearly was not a part of the long term plan, with just three receptions for 59 yards in the 1992 season. Evidently, he was a fairly talented player who never got on the same page as Marino. Clark would retire from football following his lone season in Miami.
6 Scott Miller
Miller is kind of a curiosity, because he remained on the team for a long time; six years in fact, and never went anywhere else. His highest reception total for a single season is six, and caught a grand total of one TD pass.
Likely just a special teams player, brought on to be a spot receiver, there was evidently a reason this was the case. As such, he probably never even had the time to establish a rapport with Marino. His numbers may not be great, but he was able to stay in the league for a decent amount of time, so he had something going for him. Plus, they're still better than some others on this list.
5 Mike Williams
Another completely uninspiring target, Williams was on the team from 1991 to 1995 in the final days of Don Shula's coaching run. He never caught a single TD pass, despite appearing in 58 games as a Dolphin. He amassed 292 yards receiving during this time span, cementing himself as a non-threat to opposing defenses in the process.
He also fumbled the ball twice, despite having only 21 receptions for his entire career. This just keeps getting worse and worse.
4 Fred Banks
A member of the Dolphins from 1987 to 1993, the initial statistics would say that he doesn't really qualify as "bad". He caught eight TD passes and had a year where he notched 500 receiving yards. The reveal lies in the fact that he wasn't used sparingly. He played in at least eight games every year he was in Miami, and several years spent the whole season as an active member of the team. All of a sudden, eight TD receptions doesn't seem so impressive.
4. Charles Jordan
Though he had one decent season in 1997 with the team that yielded nearly 500 yards receiving, the other two he spent in Miami warrant his inclusion. He failed to catch a single TD pass in either of them, and combined for less than 150 yards receiving. Somewhat of a journeyman during his career, he spent time with four different franchises before retiring in 1999. Believe it or not, some of those years were worse than the ones highlighted above.
3 Brian Manning
Another one-year blunder for the Dolphins, Manning played during the 1997 season, and caught seven passes for 85 yards, with no TD receptions. By this time, Marino was two years away from retirement, and was probably willing to try anybody after years of having limited targets to throw to. This one didn't fare any better (and did noticeable worse than most), and was out of league following the proceeding season, which he spent with the Packers. He graduated from Stanford though, so he likely didn't have to just rely on his NFL contracts when it came to his finances.
2 Eddie Chavis
Chavis gets the nod over Manning because he played one less year in the league. His lone NFL season came in 1987 with the Dolphins where he appeared in three games, catching seven passes for just over 100 yards. Another body in the revolving door of wide-outs the team recycled through, Chavis barely made it through NFL training camp. He did catch one pass for 27 yards which is one feather in his cap, but Marino probably had more to do with that.
1 Mike Caterbone
It must have been slim pickings in 1987, because Caterbone was on the same exact receiving corps as Chavis. Not exactly murderers row.
Caterbone similarly played only one season, and fared even statistically worse than Chavis. In total, his career amounted to seven receptions for 78 yards, and then he retired. To make matters worse, he also fumbled once, despite almost never actually touching the ball. It's amazing that Marino never felt the need to leave the franchise after being provided with even depth players of this caliber. In the end, against all odds, he had a Hall of Fame career, but the price came when he had to take the field with the likes of the receivers on this list.